House Bill 90
House Bill 90 was introduced on February 8, 2018. This is the ‘fix’ Republican leadership have been promising us. However, the bill has issues.
First and foremost, it does address class size. For the upcoming school term 2018-2019 class size will remain the same. The class size mandate will now be phased in. The next big change is a separate budget allotment for enhancement teachers in grades K-5. This will be funded at a rate of 1 enhancement teacher for every 191 students, or 246 million by the 2020-2021 school term.
Even in the class size piece of this bill, there are down sides. For many, it doesn’t address the need for more classroom space. The bill offers zero funding for new school construction. The funding for enhancement teachers may not be enough. In many counties, we will be still underfunded. Finally, the teacher allotment now has strings attached. While districts can move their enhancement allotment out of enhancement, they are not permitted to move money from their teacher allotment to cover enhancement teachers. This makes budgeting for districts much more difficult, than when we had more flexibility.
Next, lawmakers put forth significant funds to add more pre-k slots. The goal is to put an end to the wait list. No one is sure if this will completely eliminate the wait list, but with 36 million dollars pledged by the 2020-2021 school year this is an improvement to pre-k.
Finally, the unnecessary and potentially harmful additions to the bill. Republican lawmakers added unrelated things to House Bill 90, that ultimately have the potential to harm. The lawmakers changed the Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to allow those already in a private school to be eligible. Next, they played partisan politics with money for the Atlantic Pipeline, and finally they changed the election ethics board. All this is not related to class size, nor does it improve public education across the state.
Our Take: While the class size element of the bill is a step up from what we had before, it in no way addresses all our concerns. No bill is perfect, but when it comes to class size, this bill does seek to offer some relief for our students. Other parts of the bill are obviously partisan in nature, and we don’t appreciate our kids being used. Without a severability clause, we fully understand a no vote on H90. We understand those legislators who feel they are put in a no win situation. This was obviously by design. We will continue to support lawmakers from any party, who work towards a better public school system for North Carolina, regardless of how they vote on this particular bill.